Certificate In Alternative Farming

Study alternative farming by distance education, learning sustainable agriculture techniques for farming crops and livestock; all by distance education.

Course Code: VSS103
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 600 hours
Qualification Certificate
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Farming can be Profitable, Healthy and a Dream Lifestyle

Some farms struggle though; so it's important to make wise and informed choices about what you do, and how you do it.

  • Get to know the options for your land
  • Choose to produce things that are compatible with your resources
  • Don't over extend yourself
  • Take the time to learn, plan and do each job properly

This course connects you with a tutor who knows the options, has both training and experience in agriculture, and can mentor you as you learn and develop your approach to farming. Our course places a great deal of emphasis upon discovering the options, building networks and establishing a solid, scientific foundation for day to day work on a farm.


  • Produce Different Products
  • Use Different Farming Methods
  • Sell Your Produce in Different Ways


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate In Alternative Farming.
 Sustainable Agriculture BAG215
 Organic Farming BAG305
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 4 of the following 24 modules.
 Herb Culture BHT114
 Aquaculture BAG211
 Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing VHT241
 Cut Flower Production BHT221
 Forage Management BAG226
 Goat Production BAG223
 Green Walls and Roofs BHT256
 Hydroponic Management (Hydroponics II) BHT213
 Hydroponics I BHT224
 Mariculture - Marine Aquaculture BAG220
 Nut Production BHT219
 Permaculture Systems BHT201
 Pigs BAG209
 Plant Breeding BHT236
 Poultry BAG208
 Protected Plant Production BHT223
 Trees For Rehabilitation BHT205
 Viticulture BHT220
 Agricultural Marketing BAG304
 Agronomy V - Oil Crops BAG312
 Agronomy VI - Fibre Crops BAG313
 Animal Breeding BAG301
 Aquaponic Production BHT319
 Manufacturing Herbal Products BHT345

Note that each module in the Certificate In Alternative Farming is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

What are the Alternatives to Mainstream Farming?

Mainstream farming today tends to be large scale, using all of the technologies that are available for reducing the cost of production and maximizing the productivity and annual profitability of a farm. Large scale farming tends to focus on the crops and livestock that can be produced and sold in large quantities - beef, cattle, cereal crops, cotton, etc. These mainstream farms are focused on financial return for the owners or investors; and usually that means producing quantity and marketing produce through large and increasingly international markets.

Alternative farming is anything that is different to this.

Alternative farms may be small, producing niche crops that are not needed on a large enough scale for them to be produced in mass. They may be different in terms of the way the produce is farmed; without the same level of chemical input or mechanisation. When products are grown more naturally, on a smaller scale or more slowly, the final produce may have different characteristics. It may be cleaner, or it may taste or look different, for instance. The differences found in produce from alternative farms can appeal to a different type of buyer, and this may give the alternative farmer a marketing advantage.

Alternative farming can be slower and may not always be as profitable in the short term; but it can also be more sustainable for both the farmer and the land that is being farmed. Over time; smaller, alternative farms may well survive as viable family businesses, when larger mainstream farms do not. 

Consider Biodynamics - one type of Alternative Farming?

Biodynamic farming and gardening is a natural practice which developed from a series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. It has many things in common with other forms of natural growing, but it also has a number of characteristics which are unique.

It views the farm or garden as a "total" organism and attempts to develop a sustainable system, where all of the components of the living system have a respected and proper place.

There is a limited amount of scientific evidence available which relates to biodynamics. Some of what is available suggests biodynamic methods do in fact work! It will, however, take a great deal more research for mainstream farmers to become convinced widely of the effectiveness of these techniques; or in fact for the relative effectiveness of different biodynamic techniques to be properly identified.

Principles of Biodynamics

  • Biodynamics involves a different way of looking at growing plants and animals.
  • Plant and animal production interrelate. 
  • Manure from animals' feeds plants. Plant growth feeds the animals.
  • Biodynamics considers the underlying cause of problems and attempts to deal with those causes rather than dealing with superficial ways of treating problems. Instead of seeing poor growth in leaves and adding nutrients; biodynamics considers what is causing the poor growth -perhaps soil degradation, wrong plant varieties - or whatever? It then deals with the bigger question.
  • Produce is a better quality when it is "in touch" with all aspects of a natural ecosystem. Produce which is produced artificially (e.g. battery hens or hydroponic lettuces) will lack this contact with "all parts of nature", and as such the harvest may lack flavour, nutrients, etc., and not be healthy food.
  • Economic viability and marketing considerations affect what is grown.
  • Available human skills, manpower and other resources affect what is chosen to be grown.
  • Conservation and environmental awareness are very important.
  • Soil quality is maintained by paying attention to soil life and fertility.
  • Lime, rock dusts and other slow acting soil conditioners may be used occasionally.
  • Maintaining a botanical diversity leads to reduced problems.
  • Rotating crops is important.
  • Farm manures should be carefully handled and stored.

Developing a Biodynamic Farm or Garden

The first step is always to look at the property as a single organism, and to appreciate that whatever changes are made to the property can have implications to many (probably all) of the component parts of that property. There is an obvious (though sometimes subtle) relationship between every plant or animal and its surroundings, both the nearby and the more distant surroundings.

Biodynamic Preparations

These are a particularly unique and important aspect of biodynamics. There are all sorts of biodynamic preparations. There is a wide experience (throughout many countries) which suggests the use of these preparations is beneficial, resulting in both morphological and physiological changes in plants (e.g. better ripening rates, better dry matter, carbohydrate and protein rates).

Some of these special preparations are outlined below:

  • In the book "Organic Farming" by Lambkin (Farming Press, U.K.); two different sprays (500 and 501) are mentioned as being commonly used. These are made from a precise formulation of quartz and cow manure and are sprayed on crops at (very) diluted rates. Biodynamic growers in the U.K. and elsewhere also use preparations made from plants to stimulate compost and manure heaps.
  • Cow manure is placed in a cow horn and buried over winter, with the intention of maintaining a colony of beneficial organisms in the horn over the cold months which can then recolonise the soil quickly in the spring.
  • Insect control sprays are commonly made as follows:
    Catch some of the grubs or insects which are becoming a pest. Mash them to a pulp (perhaps in a food processor), then add water and place in a sealed jar for a few days in a refrigerator. Once fermentation begins, remove and dilute with water (100:1). Spray over affected plants. This is said to repel the insects, though no scientific evidence is known to support the treatment.
  • Biodynamic growers use a variety of different preparations to add to compost heaps or spray on paddocks or garden plots to encourage faster decomposition.
  • Preparations have included: yarrow flowers, valerian flowers, oak bark, calendula flowers, comfrey leaves and preparations from Casuarina and Allocasuarina species.



Studying this course will take you to a level beyond the basic permaculture training that most permaculturists undertake.
It involves more than eight times as much study as a normal Permaculture Design Certificate; but in doing this extra study, you will have so much more knowledge and a greater awareness of what you might achieve using permaculture for developing your own property, or helping develop other properties as a friend, colleague, consultant, teacher or writer.

What Should You Study?

Let us help you make the Best Decision for You!

  • Contact us and tell us about your passions and ambitions
  • Let us understand your situation so we can advise you properly
  • Then make a better unformed decision about what to study.

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course is aimed at providing you with a solid understanding in your selected discipline. It has been designed to take 600 hours, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and more. When you complete the course, will have a good understanding of the area/ industry you want to work in.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your login.training portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exams (6 exams) and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Certificate. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email acs@oamps.com.au.

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

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We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

Alison Pearce (Agri & Animal)

Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to ACS students.

She has worked as a University Lecturer, has also run a veterinary operating theatre; responsible for animal anaesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniques and procedures. She has worked in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

She has extensive experience of handling, husbandry, and management of a wide range of both small and large animals and has a particular love for nature and wildlife.

Alison has a BSc (Hon) Animal Science.

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